Oct 2015

Letters from Elsewhere

My visitor today is Jane Charlesworth, who has come from the pages of Rebellious Cargo by Susan Lodge to share three days from her journal, written whilst aboard the naval frigate HMS Serena.

The Aegean Sea.  Thursday 19th May 1803.

I felt like one of the cheese barrels when I was taken aboard the naval frigate today. Except that I have the feeling the cheese is viewed by the ship’s captain as a more welcome commodity. 

Captain Marston has shown little respect for my profession, my gender or my predicament and has made it clear I am a tiresome interruption to his schedule. His irritation I suspect is partly because my ship had managed to outmanoeuvre his attempts to track me down for the past week. The possibility that I would know these waters better than he is an impossible concept for him to swallow.

The stench and sounds of the ship bring back such horrors from a year ago.  However disagreeable this Captain is, I pray he runs a disciplined ship. The last time I was the guest on one of His Majesty’s ships, the weasel in command showed only concern for his position on the admiral’s list, causing him to turn a deaf ear to the conduct of the most prestigious of his company.

Captain Marston has orders to enlist my services and deliver me to Malta.  He will not tell me what awaits me there. I had presumed we would be going back to England but he tells me that is not the case.

Damn, Marston! How dare he treat me with such disregard after his orders have come via the Prime Minister himself, demanding my assistance.  But why me?  I cannot fathom why they had to track me down. Surely they have other code breakers nearer to home who could see to their needs.

I cannot sleep. The nightmares have returned and I lay staring at the ceiling as the ship’s bell rings out every half hour, punctuating the long night.


Friday 20th May 1803

I found a dead rat in my bed – of the furry kind.  I know who is to blame.

Juvenile midshipmen like their jokes, tiresome as they are.  Cross and Anderson are no more than boys thrown into a man’s world. Their leadership of hardened sailors almost comical to witness.   Although, when the French attack, there will be nothing comical about it. Just tears, maimed bodies and talk of honourable conduct.

My cabin is adequate and I take comfort that Celine is installed next door. Thank God, she had the common sense to masquerade as my maid – although the thought makes me smile. As an ex-slave her memories must be stirred by the thought of sailing into the unknown. She is much bolder and far more beautiful than I and does not have the temperament of a servant. I found that out years ago when my father first rescued her from a life of hell. But she is my responsibility and I must keep her safe.

The food is plenty, but challenging at times.  I fear my teeth will loosen with the consistency of the beef and the ship’s biscuits.   Although the latter, with their unique texture and density, are handy things to tuck away in a reticule thereby turning it into an effective cosh. I swear I may be tempted to land mine quite forcibly over a certain Captain’s head next time he casts that disdainful look my way.


Saturday 21st May 1803

I have just finished decoding a document that the Captain retrieved from a French ship a week before I arrived on board.  It has taken me longer than normal. I am out of practice. But the satisfaction of being able to deliver the results to the man who thinks I am such an encumbrance was most gratifying. He was surprised at my success.  He finds it hard to believe that my late father, England’s top code breaker, had the temerity to pass on the family skill to a mere daughter.

Now I have a new worry. Celine has encountered trouble, I am sure of it.  I have never seen her eyes so cold, her face so haunted, especially when she thinks I am not watching her. She has a secret and I feel saddened and alarmed she has not chosen to share it with me.

The Chaplain has taken a thorough dislike to me.  Why? I have no idea.  I do my best to keep out of his way, but I will not be cowed by the pompous oaf.  God’s representative he might be, but he distributes little comfort to anyone. And he has selected Celine and me for unwarranted and unnatural disfavour.  However I have no time to worry about him as I have been summoned to the Captain and from the sound of his voice it is not to discuss the view of the clear night sky.

About Rebellious Cargo

Rebellious Cargo by Susan LodgeJane Charlesworth, daughter of England’s foremost code breaker, is the only person thought capable of deciphering a vital government document. But when a naval frigate is sent to enlist her services and transport her to Malta, Jane is horrified. Haunted with terrible memories of an earlier voyage, she has no intention of putting herself under the protection of the Admiralty ever again.

Anxious to be at the forefront of the action as the peace with France crumbles, Adam Marston is livid when his ship is diverted to collect a reluctant blue-stocking whose accusing eyes and insolent manner hold nothing but contempt for him and his orders. Sparks fly when captain and code breaker find they have different ideas on how to handle a French attack, a malicious chaplain, and boisterous midshipmen.

Duty and desire collide as they approach Malta, but Jane is determined that her judgment will not be clouded by Adam who, once he has despatched his Rebellious Cargo, will sail out of her life again. But, as the ship docks, Jane’s life becomes a nightmare and she is forced to gamble that Adam is the only person she can trust.

As passion battles with duty, will future orders throw them together or tear them apart?

About Susan Lodge

Susan LodgeSusan was born in England’s West Country and spent her first years amongst strawberry fields, caves and orchards. Leaving home at eighteen she headed for London and embarked on a career in the Civil Service – gaining a Science degree along the way. So what is she doing writing historical romance? It is probably something to do with the ports and cities of the South where she has lived and where you can still feel the echo of the Georgian period.

A short story published in a national magazine was her first success which spurred her on to finish and seek a publisher for her novels.

Susan loves spell checks, piano, swing dance and musical theatre. Her ambition has always been to travel into space, but she needs to write a best seller first to fund the excursion.

Please visit Susan Lodge’s website, where you can find out more about her books.

Other links: Twitter- Susan Lodge @pagehalffull

…………………Blog    https://susanlodgebooks.wordpress.com/

It’s probably unfair of me to call out this particular person. There are probably millions of people in the world who would do the same kind of thing. But yesterday it happened to be this one and she upset me. Not massively – just a bit.

She followed me on Twitter and I followed her back, as you do. Then she sent me a message and I replied and she wrote back. Here’s the conversation:


It was an interesting question. I considered my answer carefully. According to her Twitter profile, she lives in Hawaii and is an author, mentor, speaker, entrepreneur and visual thinker. I chose to ignore all that and think of her as a person. She chose to ignore my choice and answer as my mentor. I didn’t ask for her advice; she just gave it.

But, Susan McIntire, you don’t know me, so how do you know whether your advice has any relevance for me? How do you know whether calling a friend to discuss meeting is ridiculously easy for me? Or even whether I have a friend to call? How do you know whether your advice will be useful for me or the opposite – that it’ll make me feel like a failure because what for you is ridiculously easy doesn’t feel like that for me?

So thank you, Susan McIntire. I know you mean well (and probably want to find new clients) but I’d rather you didn’t do that to me.

NaNo-2015-Participant-BannerYou must have heard of NaNoWriMo by now, but in case you haven’t, it’s all explained in the link. 2015 will be my fourth go at it. I only “won” once, but really I won every time. I particularly enjoyed all the write-ins and I always ended up with words written, even if I didn’t always reach the magic 50,000. I wrote some more about NaNoWriMo in the English Informer.

Just now, I’m attempting to clear the decks – doing everything I can in advance of 1st November. That includes blog posts like this one, articles, etc. It also includes research for the novel, because this will be the first time I’ve ever attempted to write something historical – something from a time I don’t remember.

You may not hear a lot from me during November. But hear you will, because I’ll still be doing my popular Friday feature, Letters from Elsewhere. I also hope to find time to post progress reports.

To everyone who’s doing NaNoWriMo: GOOD LUCK!

Jo Carroll, intrepid lone traveller, is doing something amazing and she’s here to tell you about it.

Jo CarrollThank you so much, Miriam, for inviting me to post about my appeal to build a house in Nepal.

I spent much of September in Nepal. It was humbling, being with friends who are working so hard to rebuild their country after the earthquake. Yet, in the middle of the dust and the rubble, they still found the energy to make me welcome.

I’ve come home determined to do something to help. But the need is overwhelming. It would be easy to retreat into helplessness in the face of such devastation. There’s a small tent city in Kathmandu – all those families who need somewhere safe and dry to live. And I’ve seen similar pockets of destruction in the towns and village.

There are international charities working hard in Kathmandu, and in rural areas where the damage is most severe. But the small villages, where one or two homes are crumbling, are dependent on small NGOs or tiny charities for any help.

My friends, though many now live in Pokhara or Kathmandu, come from a village in the foothills of the mountains. We trekked there one day and I saw the conditions in which one family is living. The top storey of this house has collapsed. They – three adults (a couple and his mother) and two small children live as best they can in what is left of the ground floor. Each time the monsoon rains there is the risk that the remains of this building will collapse completely. But what choice do they have?

And so I have agreed to pay for this man to rebuild his house. The cost – just £1500. I shall pay the money through a small charity that supports the health centre and school in this village, and is appealing for funds to help repair all the damaged homes. A friend is one of the men commissioned to distribute all contributions, and I trust him completely. There is no risk that my money will line his pockets.

The need is enormous. There is so much we can’t do. But we can rebuild one house – give them somewhere to sleep and eat, and for the children to play – without fearing that everything will come crashing around them.

For those who would like to help me, here is the link to my appeal: https://www.gofundme.com/ny6mbny4.

And that’s not all. Jo is also writing a book about her latest experiences in Nepal, and is donating all the proceeds to the house-build. Having read her previous books, like this one, I know it’s going to be good. I’ll keep you posted on that.

Letters from Elsewhere

Today’s visitor is one of the cleaners at the Tower of London. She’s called Sarah, but where she comes from, in the soon-to-be-released novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London by Jennifer C. Wilson, she doesn’t even have a name. On top of that, she’s the victim of a specific prank played by the ghostly residents of the Tower. This puts her in the unfortunate position of having to clear up the mess left by people she doesn’t even fully believe in, so it is perhaps only fair that she should be allowed to tell her side of the story.


JenniferCWilliams Tower of LondonI am writing this to you formally, because although I fear it may spread and make me look a fool, this needs to be documented. I know we have discussed a couple of incidents informally in the past, but this summer it has gone a step too far.

You were there, the morning I radioed about the Bloody Tower, but I will say again, I did not touch that display. Everyone knows I hate that building, and I am the last person who would mess with anything in there. Add to this the number of spilled drinks I have had to deal with in the vicinity of the Bowyer Tower, and other displays being moved about overnight, and it simply is no longer funny.

So I ask again: do you know of any reason why somebody is trying to scare me? I’ve been subjected to weeping, wailing, rattling chains – it is time to investigate this properly, and establish who is behind this malicious campaign.

And don’t you dare mention the word ‘ghost’. I am a grown woman, and although the history of this place hasn’t always been pleasant, I refuse to accept that 1) there are any spirits hanging around, or 2) even if there were, they would be wasting their time on me. It would also imply a particularly childish sense of humour, one which does not sit well with those who supposedly still walk among us, if you believe the rumours. Which I do not.

I have sought advice in the writing of this letter, and am therefore asking you, in an official capacity, to look into these events, or I will need to reconsider my position here, and take the matter further. I have worked here for ten years, and never in all my time have things been as bad as this.

I look forward to receiving your reply.

Kind regards,


Well! Are you intrigued? I certainly am.

About Kindred Spirits: Tower of London

JenniferCWilliams Kindred Spirits-Tower of LondonA King, three Queens, a handful of nobles and host of former courtiers…

In the Tower of London, the dead outnumber the living, with the likes of the Howard girls, Queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, rubbing shoulders with one man who has made his way back to discover the truth about the disappearance of his famous nephews.

Amidst the chaos of daily life, with political and personal tensions running high, Richard III tries to take control, as each ghostly resident looks for peace in the former palace, where privacy always was a limited luxury.

With so many people wanting so many things, will they all find the calm they crave?

Kindred Spirits: Tower of London is released by Crooked Cat Publishing on 27th October, and is available from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

About Jennifer C Wilson

JenniferCWilliams in Leicester CathedralJennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating.

Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online.

Jennifer blogs at https://jennifercwilsonwriter.wordpress.com/.

Letters from ElsewhereI’m delighted to welcome Hannah, who seems to feel she has to plead her case with you. She is the almost mother-in-law of Jen, main character of recently released Taming Tom Jones by Margaret K Johnson. But she’s more than that, as you’ll see.

Over to you, Hannah.

Dear Reader

I know what you think – that I should tell Jen the truth. Well, I’m sorry, but I can’t do that. I care too much about her, and I fought so very hard to keep her in my life after what Luther did.

I don’t remember being so angry with my son before, ever. I could hardly take in what he was saying to me, standing there in his wedding clothes, unable to look me in the face. It was as if he was six years old all over again. Five. I know it was you with that pea shooter, Luther; don’t lie to me. Martha saw you, behind the wall.

I wanted to shake him; to take him by the lapels of his expensive morning suit and make his teeth rattle. I wanted to yell. How could you do such a thing to that wonderful girl? I’m so ashamed of you!

But then he began to cry; great choking sobs that forced me to comfort him. Because after all, I was his mother, and whether it was his fault or not, he had lost his Jenny. She would not be marrying him that afternoon. She would not be moving in to that new home the two of them had spent months locating. She would not be having his children.

But there and then, while I held him in my arms and let him weep, I decided I would not lose touch with her. I’d loved Jenny from the very first moment Luther brought her home to meet me, and she would be – had to be – a part of my life still.

I have to go out, I told him as soon as he began to pull out of my arms, and I wouldn’t tell him where I was going, even though I think he knew. I left him with his best man and I went to Jenny’s house and forced Marcia to let me see her. It was the best thing I ever did, and now, even though my son isn’t the father of her child, I shall be its grandmother in every way possible. I look forward to that so very much.

So please, if you have any mercy within you, don’t say anything to spoil it. Let us be. In life, there is a time to speak up, and a time to stay quiet. This is a time to stay quiet. Trust me.

With my good wishes and my thanks, in expectation that you will do as I ask.



About Taming Tom Jones

Taming Tom Jones coverJen’s partner Michael has never been in a relationship for more than four years, so with their fourth anniversary coming up, she’s getting understandably nervous. Especially as she’s just discovered she’s pregnant, and she knows Michael doesn’t want any more children other than Kyle, his teenage son.

Jen means to tell Michael about the baby right away, but then he comes home on a brand new motorbike, having traded in his sensible car, and the moment is lost. Is Michael having an early mid-life crisis?

Jen decides to do some detective work about Michael’s exes in an effort to save their relationship, and embarks on a journey that will take her as far afield as North Norfolk and Cuba. But she has no idea of the can of worms she’s about to open.

Why do all Michael’s relationships break up? And what’s the big secret he’s hiding?

Taming Tom Jones can be bought at Amazon.

_DSC2275_ppAbout Margaret K Johnson

Margaret K Johnson began writing after finishing at Art College to support her career as an artist. Writing quickly replaced painting as her major passion, and these days her  canvasses lay neglected in her studio. She is the author of women’s fiction, stage plays and many original fiction readers in various genres for people learning to speak English. Margaret also teaches fiction writing and has an MA in Creative Writing (Scriptwriting) from the University of East Anglia. She lives in Norwich, UK with her partner and their bouncy son and dog.

Sitting at my desk this morning, trying to concentrate on the novel I’m editing, I heard a siren. Probably an ambulance, as we live close to the route to a large hospital.

Normally, I would ignore it and carry on. But these days aren’t normal. Did something happen? Sure enough, my phone indicated yet another news flash: eight people badly wounded in a shooting attack on a bus.

More ambulances drove past and I reflected. During periods like this, I become afraid of Arabs. I know that the vast majority of them wouldn’t commit these terrible crimes, but when I meet one, how can I know their intentions?

People in other countries, far away from this, criticise Israel for its treatment of Arabs, stopping them at checkposts. It’s wrong, they say, to subject so many to checks because of a few. But they don’t suggest an alternative; there isn’t one. I read about a nineteen-year-old female soldier who apprehended two would-be terrorists at the same checkpost in the last few days.

There’s an update: one dead and seventeen wounded in two attacks in Jerusalem today. And it’s only 11:00.

Peace. Is it too much to ask for?

UPDATE: three people died in the two Jerusalem attacks. (We don’t include terrorists in the count.)

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